Podcasts

You have an ipod right? Or some other sort of mp3 playing device. Well have you discovered podcasts? I love music, I have a large library of music spanning many genres. I could probably go several months straight listening through my library without repeating a song. Even with all of this at my disposal I listen to podcasts 80% of the time. They’re free and easy to subscribe to. There is a podcast for any interest you may possibly have. Here are some of my favorites.

I am obsessed with this show, I recommend it to anyone that will listen. One episode can take you through the gamut of emotions. Some of my current cherished friendships have been sparked through discussions of this show. They usually have only the most recent episode available on the podcast, but the do stream all of their episodes free on their website. www.thislife.org . One of my favorites is called Somewhere Out There

I actually discovered this show through one of the episodes of This American Life. They have a similar structure as TAL, there is a theme and the collect stories related to that theme. Radiolab has more of a scientific bent which is great because it makes me feel smarter after I’ve listened to an episode. All of their episodes are available for download via podcast, or you can listen on their website. www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/ Try the Morality episode

Another podcast I discovered through This American Life. I’ve gone to a couple of their live shows too. They have a handful of podcasts available for download. I’ve heard some really great stories from Neil Gaiman and Malcolm Gladwell on their podcast. The Moth is a great organization and the stories they put up are always entertaining. They’re also short which is nice for those 20 minute car/train rides.

Terry Gross does the best interviews. She asks really insightful questions and really does her research. She interviewed Tracy Morgan and I listened in my car with my jaw hanging open because that interview was so crazy. The interviews all types of people; celebrities, politicians, directors, scientists, authors etc. Her show comes on at least twice a day on weekdays. You can also download podcasts of each show on iTunes.

I want to go to the TED conference someday. They get some of the most cutting edge thinkers of our time and get them to share their ideas. It’s amazing, I’ve seen stuff on the energy crisis, economics, aide in Africa, creativity, time & space. It always challenges the way I think about the world and yes the ideas are indeed worth spreading. They have both video and audio versions of their lectures, and I think they have most of them up on iTunes. This means you can find at least one thing you would be interested in.

Do you have a favorite podcast I haven’t listed? Care to share?

Lincoln in New York

The New York Historical Society is having free admission days all this week. That is another thing about New York that I love, the museums often have free days/hours which is just the right price for me. The museum has a special exhibit on Lincoln which was pretty cool. I have to admit I didn’t pay that much attention in history. My American history knowledge is seriously deficient. It was cool to walk through Lincoln’s political career. My favorite anecdote was about his decision to grow a beard. In his early days he was clean shaven in his photos. A little girl named Grace Bedell wrote him a letter assuring him of her vote but also suggesting that he grow in some whiskers.

N Y
Westfield Chatauque Co
Oct 15. 1860

Hon A B Lincoln
Dear Sir

My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you   you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is a going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try and get every one to vote for you that I can   I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty   I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter dir[e]ct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chatauque County New York

I must not write any more   answer this letter right off
Good bye
Grace Bedell

Adorable right? The best part is that Lincoln did grow in some whiskers! I loved that. The big thing I took away from the exhibit is the way that history blurs the edges of what actually happened. Lincoln is this iconic figure, stove pipe hats, unwavering morals and a farmer boy clean cut stature. I think the thing that gets diminished is the great opposition he faced even within his camp of supporters. The political cartoons were especially biting. It was just interesting to me how so many of the challenges Lincoln faced in his Presidency are the same challenges President Obama is facing. So good luck President Obama, politics is a harsh business.


It seems ridiculous now to think that slavery was a legalized way of life that under the Dred Scott Decision those imported and descended from Africans were not protected under our constitution. I won’t get into the ways slavery is still legalized today (maybe later), but it’s still baffling that we can treat our fellow human beings like cattle. The museum exhibited the lives of some of our country’s most legendary abolitionists. Now I wish I had paid more attention in history class instead of playing racing games on my TI-83 I could have properly given consideration to the people in history that risked their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. Thank you New York Historical Society for properly shaming me. I’m off to add some history books to this year’s book list.


Snowflakes

It snowed all day yesterday. I walked around Central Park for a bit and just enjoyed the general splendor of freshly fallen snow. I think snow is magical, even walking back home crossing the busy streets everything just seemed to be a little quieter a little more serene. I got home with snow covered boots and a soggy jacket but I loved every minute out there with the snowflakes.

Jane Austen Challenge

I stumbled upon a Jane Austen reading challenge via Austenprose on Twitter last night and had to join. It’s over at the Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object run by Haley. The rules are pretty simple, pick a level (I fall under the “Fanatic” category) and share your list of books. Since I’m already well on my way I thought it would be fun to interact with other bookworm bloggers. So for the fanatic category I must read 6 Jane Austen books and 5 Jane Austen inspired works. Here’s my list:

  • Pride & Prejudice (done)
  • Sense & Sensibility
  • Emma
  • Persuasion
  • Mansfield Park
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters
  • Dawn of the Dreadfuls
  • Austenland (done)
  • A Truth Universally Acknowledged
  • These Three Remain

Books have to be read by December 31st. Like I need an excuse to read Austen.

Snowpocalypse

We got 10 inches of snow on Wednesday (2/9). I enjoyed this snowfall from the comfort of my cozy apartment. I wasn’t feeling too well and after hearing reports from friends who were forced to venture out in the storm I figured it was better to just watch the snowflakes from indoors. I love snow! It gives you the chance to bundle up in warm coats, scarves and hats. I love the sound of the snow crunching beneath your feet. I love when the flurries get caught in your eyelashes or on the fringes of your bangs. The concrete jungle blanketed with fresh snowfall is so beautiful. The weather forecast says there is a 100% chance of snow tonight and tomorrow. I’m feeling a lot better so I think I may go out and brave the snowfall, I may even go sledding.

For a little perspective, this is what the playground beneath my window looked like before the snowstorm (photo taken in Dec).

This is what it looked like at about 2 in the afternoon on Wednesday.

By 6pm the chain link fence was covered in a sheet of snow. The playground equipment wasn’t even visible. On a side note though, no screaming children the rest of the week. How cool must it be to get snow days?!

Hopefully I’ll get some more pictures of my neighborhood covered in snow tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

This book was amazing! I go through these love affairs with authors and get almost obsessive about reading everything they’ve written. I think Jonathan Safran Foer is my next author obsession. I tried reading Everything is Illuminated a few years ago and I just couldn’t get into it. After reading this one though, I may give it another shot.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is set closely after the attacks of September 11th. The main character is Oskar a young boy who lost his father in the twin towers and the the quest he takes on to keep his father with him a little longer. Interwoven is the story of his grandmother and grandfather, their relationship to one another, their son and grandson. The story starts off shattered and slightly incoherent. Foer does a great job of capturing the short attention span and nervous ticks of a child. This story is sad. I’m a fan of sad stories, they are best at exposing the ways we disappoint ourselves and each other. They also showcase that even in dire circumstances there can still be hope that even when everything is against you, you can still unexpectedly triumph. There are a lot of visual components to this book; pictures, red ink, typed pages etc. I think these visual cues help to spark your imagination as a reader, to draw you even deeper into Oskar’s world. Apparently this is an up in coming trend with the hip young New York writers. Therefore it can be either seen as pretentious or brilliant depending on your disposition. This book was beautiful, I’m sorry it had to end.

This book comes highly recommended to pretty much anyone. My friend Jared in particular.

Love Hurts

I am obsessed with stories! I think my purpose in life is to make sure a good story has an opportunity to be heard. I like going to live events that basically amount to an adult story hour (lectures, author readings, story slams etc.). One of the great things about New York is that these events are plentiful any night of the week. I was especially keen to check out one of The Moth events. The Moth is a non-profit storytelling organization founded in 1997. You can check out their podcast, and some of their stories have been featured on This American Life.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day the story theme for the evening was “Love Hurts”. I got there about an hour before the doors opened and by the time the doors opened at 7 the line was wrapped around the block. The event was held in a small bookstore so it wasn’t able to seat all of those people. We managed to score seats, which was awesome since we were there for over three hours. The night was fantastic there was a story about a guy reconnecting with his mother, a husband pressuring his wife into a threesome, a girl figuring out how Jewish she was after a threesome, a boy figuring out he was gay by falling in love with his straight best friend, and a story about a boy who falls in love with his nurse. Those were the more memorable stories of the evening. It was such a nice atmosphere for the storyteller, very supportive and encouraging. It was fun to commiserate with heartache and laugh at the stupid things we do in the name of love.

If you have a chance to check them out on the road you really should. Other great storytelling events usually roll into big cities quite often. Stuff like Mortified, Found, Post Secret & This American Life hold live events that are really fun to attend. Also if you have a favorite author, they usually go on book tours which are a lot of fun and usually free to attend. There are so many great stories waiting to be told, you should go out and find one. Better yet tell your own!

INFP

Have you taken the Meyer’s Briggs test (if not take it here)? I took it the other evening with my roommates and we had a lot of fun comparing our results. It may come as no surprise to you that I am an INFP (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Perception) basically I’m a dreamer. There are links all over the internet that profile INFPs my favorite description is this one:

INFPs are introspective, private, creative and highly idealistic individuals that have a constant desire to be on a meaningful path. They are driven by their values and seek peace. Empathetic and compassionate, they want to help others and humanity as a whole. INFPs are imaginitive, artistic and often have a talent for language and writing. They can also be described as easygoing, selfless, guarded, adaptable, patient and loyal.

I think personality tests are fun. I’ve always known I was an introvert. I’ve only recently come to embrace this about myself. I love this article originally posted in The Atlantic called Caring for Your Introvert. Here’s an excerpt:

“Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is “too serious,” or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren’t caring for him properly…”

You can find the full article here: Caring for Your Introvert

I’m lucky or maybe unconsciously strategic because so many of my best friends are extroverts and I can just sit back and be the social loafer I prefer to be.

Austenland

Yes the Jane Austen kick has not come to and end. I read 2 books in the first week of February both Austen related and both awesome. The first book was Pride and Prejudice, which doesn’t really need a review since it’s pretty obvious from previous posts that I love it. I get through this book pretty fast because I have much of it committed to memory. The cool thing about the version Angelique gave me is that it is based off the first printing, so there are lots of misspellings and  grammatical errors that were corrected in subsequent printings.

Onto the second book of February: Austenland by Shannon Hale. I read Goose Girl and Princess Academy previously and really enjoyed those stories so I had high hopes for Austenland. I loved it. The story is about Jane Hayes, a single 30 something independent New Yorker who has a secret obsession with Mr. Darcy and Pride & Prejudice. In a last ditch effort to kick the Austen habit Jane immerses herself in a 3 week Austen vacation. It’s a resort that lets the Austen fanatic role play, as if they were living in Austen’s England. There are actors who play characters similar to those in Austen novels. There is the brooding & rude Darcy like guy, the charming easy going Wickham guy, there’s even a Persuasion type romance that plays out.

This book is perfect for the Austen enthusiast. It’s a fun fluff read, perfect for the beach or a cold winter day when you just want to stay inside. Jane Hayes is a fun character and this story would be easily adapted into a movie. I had fun casting the characters in my head. My friends Angelique & Erica would particularly enjoy this one (Girls you’re welcome to my copy, just come pick it up in NY).

January books

I barely managed to meet my 8 book a month goal, and it’s only the first month of the year. This does not bode well for my reading resolution. Yes I know 100 books in a year is pretty ambitious but to make the goal a little more attainable I count audio books and any book over 50 pages. I’m already a big fan of audio books and it gets me through those long days of cleaning/cooking and this month packing. I’m also planning on including some kid and young adult books so I can find some good stuff for my god children to read. January was a tough month since I was busy with my move out to New York but I did it and here are the reviews.

On Writing by Stephen King:

I checked this out on audio at the library and listened to it while packing. It’s a wonder to me how I’ve never read anything by Stephen King in all these years. On Writing was full of great advice for the aspiring writer. King recounts his progression as a writer and gives the best and most obvious advice which is if you want to be a writer then write! Meaning make time and be diligent about writing everyday. The second best bit of advice was to choose words that can be understood not ones that show off your vocabulary. For someone that loves big words that was a hard one to swallow but one that makes sense. Stephen King didn’t become successful until he was in his 40s and he started when he was 7! That is a disheartening reality for most aspiring writers but people that love writing can’t help it and will keep doing it even if they never get paid. It was gratifying to hear about the phone call King received letting him know Carrie was sold.

Recommended for an aspiring writer or a big Stephen King fan. Everyone else can probably skip.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech:

This is a kids book and a Newberry Award winner. I got this one on audio too and listened on a road trip up to visit my sister in Sacramento. The girl in book Salamanca is on a road trip with her grandparents to visit her mother’s grave in Idaho. Along the way Sal tells stories of her friend Phoebe and memories of her mother.I don’t really have an opinion on this one good or bad, I have to admit I was only half paying attention on the car ride. What I did manage to focus on was well written from a kids perspective. Salamanca was a well fleshed out character. I could easily imagine a kid like her on a car ride with her grandparents.

Recommend for kids 9-12.

DT

Hamlet by William Shakespeare:

I haven’t read Shakespeare since college but BBC was showing a production with my beloved David Tennant and I decided to read the text again. I’m not sure how many people realize how saturated our culture is with Shakespeare quotes. I’ll let you google that yourself. Watching and reading Shakespeare can be tough, everyone always talks so fast and of course the language is foreign to most of us. Once you have the chance to really study Shakespeare though, it’s hard not to think he’s a genius (I do). Hamlet is a beast of a read but a satisfying one if you’re committed to tackling it. Thankfully I’ve read and studied this before so it was fun to recount previous revelations and a great primer for the BBC version which will show on PBS in April if you’re interested.

Recommended for lovers of the English language, actors, and the British.

The Devil’s Storybook by Natalie Babbitt:

10 short stories about a mischievous devil running amok on earth. The tales are humorous accounts of the devil playing tricks on unsuspecting humans. I received this as a going away gift from a friend. I enjoyed it. It didn’t paint the devil as a scary monster, more like a trickster.

Recommended for kids 4-8.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare:

This is my favorite Shakespearean comedy, I adore the movie. Do you recognize a young Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson from House) and Kate Beckinsale. Also Denzel and Keanu as brothers, genius (ha)! I also have this as an audio book so I listened to it one day while job hunting. I love the banter between Benedict and Beatrice. I think it would be fun to be Beatrice in this play. I repeat her lines aloud sometimes just because they are so biting.

Recommended for the Shakespeare lover. The movie is great too.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King:

This series has been recommended to me several times but series books always intimidate me. This series has seven and I had an impression of Stephen King as only a horror writer so I wasn’t really interested. My sister Julie assured me that this wasn’t a horror book but more like a sci-fi western. I am a huge fan of Firefly the Joss Whedon futuristic space western who met its end far too soon, so I already had a soft spot for sci-fi westerns. The story follows Roland on his hunt for the man in black. It is set in a parallel universe so it’s interesting when he meets people who are dead in his reality, alive in the parallel world. The book is a great adventure, you can almost feel the dry desert air and the gritty dust getting all over you as you read. I’m excited to continue the series.

Recommended for people who love westerns, sci-fi, and adventure stories.

Foreskin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander:

Another audio book, I got this one after hearing several of Auslander’s contributions to This American Life. It recounts his upbringing as an Orthodox Jew. It is really funny and sweet at parts.

Recommended for fans of This American Life. I also think Jewish folks will commiserate with the stories he tells.

Free by Chris Anderson:

I got this free on iTunes as an audio book. Chris Anderson is an editor at Wired magazine, he believes that all content on the internet should be free. He thinks crowd sourced news is better than conventional journalism. I followed an online back and forth between him and Malcolm Gladwell. I agree with Gladwell’s arguments for the most part, but I do think that we are headed in the direction of Chris Anderson’s proposed future. I’m waiting to see how newspapers will charge for their content online and if the public will stand for it. Overall the book was a good listen.

Recommended for Ronald, and other tech and media minded people.

Whew! Those are the books for January. After this month no more than 4 books will be on audio. I’m already half-way through my first book for February. I’m going to warn you though, February will be full of Austen.